It’s hard to believe the Tomb Raider series is a ripe 14 years old already. That means there are legions of fans whose first entry to the series might’ve been the goldfish-lipped Angelina Jolie on the silver screen as Lara Croft instead of the polygonal hag she and her third-person shooter/platformer started as on the PC, Sega Saturn, and PlayStation. Through all these years, the series has undeniably stagnated; most entries in the last decade promised “reinvigoration” and rolled out other buzzwords basically acknowledging that the titles have been losing their way. But no matter your age or allegiance, Lara Croft And The Guardian Of Light proves too bland to satisfy anyone—even accounting for the fact that “Tomb Raider” is intentionally missing from the title.
There’s a reason for that: Guardian bears little resemblance to Tomb Raider, aside from Lara Croft being the main character. The biggest shift comes from the move to an isometric three-quarters viewpoint with a fixed camera. That’s all a fancy way of saying that instead of the underdressed, highly nimble archeologist Lara taking up most of the screen, she’s now so small, you’ll have to bust out a magnifying glass to keep tabs on her. This proves especially irritating in boss-battle situations, where lumbering dinosaurs can somehow outmaneuver you and the fixed camera, leaving you high and dry in the middle of the screen, unable to evade certain death.
Why are there dinosaurs in Guardian Of Light? It doesn’t make much sense, but Lara discovers the Temple Of Light and inadvertently triggers the release of the generically angry spirit Xolotl, who loves evil deeds only second to laughing maniacally and resurrecting dead things. On the bright side—and dovetailing with Light’s emphasis on off- and online co-op—temple guardian Totec also springs to life, joining forces with Lara so he can deliver dialogue clipped from an after-school special on the importance of teamwork. For one or two players, though, the repetitive combat and puzzles quickly prove boring. Point- and item-collecting side-quests pop up, attempting to add variety, but they occur with such arbitrary frequency that they resemble Farmville status updates sent out on Facebook. This is a clear departure for the series, and it earns some points for that. But facing down hordes of nondescript spiders and The Sacred Temple Of Gathering Eight Giant Boulders Into The Central Hub quickly gets old—especially for Tomb Raider fans.